Hey, diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
What is happiness? We all say that we want it. We know that is it enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and we think it is a right… but can we really achieve it? Little Dog Laughed at the Generic Theater attempts in its inimitable way to answer that question through its characters and their story.
Little Dog Laughed was nominated for the 2007 Tony Award and and Julie White won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her performance.
“Is everyone happy?”
It is the women in Little Dog Laughed who ask this important question. It may at first seem rhetorical to the audience but it then becomes more clear that the question is not just for the play’s characters.
The glue and heart of the play rests with M. Elizabeth Dickerson as Diane. Whenever Dickerson is on stage the energy picks up a beat. She glitters as she portrays Diane as both a suave control freak and wiseacre working woman, a homage of sorts to all those hyper-articulate women that can be found in film noir movies. When Dickerson kicked off the evening’s performance with her lavish and boisterous monologue about Mitchell Green’s alleged homosexuality and how he kissed her at an award ceremony, I was immediately enthralled with her performance.
Director Christopher Bernhard’s production has a somewhat light and yet cynical touch, beginning with the first act when we meet Mitchell as played by Joey Comes and Del Crawford as Alex. We learn that Mitchell is a movie star “who suffers from a slight recurring case of homosexuality.” He hires a rent-boy, Alex, who is maybe a heterosexual except when he needs to earn a living. It is this scene that seemed to have the slowest pace of the entire play. The energy seemed light and the dialogue almost lifeless. I was not convinced that there was a sexual attraction – at least not initially.
More compelling to me was Alex’s relationship with his girlfriend Ellen as played by Sarah Chaffee. Their dialogue seemed authentic and their monologues together seemed rich and beautiful. I was surprised reading the playbill that Crawford was only 17. He appeared very poised and confident in his role at such a tender age. Chaffee was very strong as Ellen and was a good counterpoint to Alex and Diane.
As the play ensues, the energy picks up as Diane attempts to prevent the burgeoning relationship with Alex and Mitchell from going public. Her client is slated to star in a movie about a gay man. But she wants to betray the scriptwriter and give the piece a happy heterosexual ending, and she believes its box office chances will be ruined if the actor reveals that he is indeed gay. But then, cleverly, we realize that we might just be watching the very film script the agent has always secretly been planning. There is a great scene when Diane, Mitchell, Alex and Ellen come together and the show moves in an entirely unexpected direction that offers sharp satire on our inane, dishonest, celebrity-fixated culture.
The Stage Design was simple with a bed, bar area, door, end tables and a small raised platform behind the bed. There seemed to be no attribution in the playbill as to who designed the set. But it clearly enhanced the action and served as an asset for each of the actors. However, the raised platform did not seem to serve a good purpose for the actors as it appeared to be of limited space. The action that did occur on the platform probably could have been more front and center in the stage setting.
The lighting design by Nina Anne Martin set the tone well for each scene. It also enabled the audience to focus on each actor as they delivered their monologues.
Wardrobe design by Katelyn Jackson matched each actors personas. There were several costume changes for each actor and each change appeared seamless.
The stage manager Jennifer Wylie did a very admirable job in coordinating each scene change. Each scene change was very quick and was not a distraction for the audience.
So why did the little dog laugh in Mother Goose’s rhyme? He laughed at the absurdity of it all, because everyone knows, it is forbidden for the cow to jump over the moon.
Special Thanks to Lauren Moylan for assisting me with this review
Generic Theater presents “Little Dog Laughed” by Douglas Carter Beane through permissions granted by Dramatist Play Services Inc. Performances take place at Generic Theater on March 23 – April 8 .Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757-441-2160